The Low Carb Luxury Newsletter: 
Volume III / Number 18: September 27, 2002: Page 7
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      Answering Mail
The Counterculture of Low Carb
                                          "The time has come, the Walrus said, to speak of many things
                                           Of shoes, and ships, and sealing wax; Of cabbages and kings..."

Dear Lora,

I have been a successful low carber for a couple of months, and I find it odd at age 50 to be part of yet another counterculture with an alternate view of reality. The spark that started me on the low carb path was Gary Taubes' July 7th NY Times article. Since then I've noted that the article failed to light a fire in the mainstream press; follow-ups, such as an August Time magazine article, tend to reinforce the "moderate" notion that it just comes down to calories, which I now know is a falsehood. I've also been puzzled to notice that in health food stores the low carb stuff is poorly represented and isn't very popular. Why, I've wondered, doesn't low carb have more momentum? Taubes' article should have been a tipping point, but the tipping went back the other way

Then I started thinking about how tobacco companies have been diversifying into food. Phillip Morris owns Kraft, Post Cereals, and Nabisco. I was stunned to find that Post features a character called "the Craver" who teaches children to have, and satisfy, their cravings thru cereal. This from the folks who brought us Joe Camel.

Taubes' article touched on the politics and big business behind the marketing of carb-laden foods. But I haven't yet seen any examination of the possibility that the dysfunctional nutritional path of our society may have been manipulated specifically to maximize profits. Is Big Sugar the next generation of what used to be Big Tobacco? It doesn't take long to get chilled thinking about the ramifications.

Back to the health food stores. Here in Los Angeles there used to be an independently owned health food store in most neighborhoods, filled with all kinds of products that could be found nowhere else. Today the only remaining stores are part of chains. The other day when I was in one, a clerk was complaining to another about having to remove many well-liked products from the shelves because an edict had been handed down that only the products with the highest profit margins would remain. This was the same clerk who had told me on a previous visit, when I'd inquired about Atkins products, "No, we don't carry much of those, and I've heard they're dangerous. You know, if you don't eat any carbs you can really mess yourself up."

Is it too much to wonder if there's a quiet, active campaign of disinformation against low carb, funded by companies with the power and will to preserve the belief that lots of their processed carbs are good for us? Is anyone asking these questions or writing about it?


Bill Elliott

Dear Bill,

Thank you for your wonderful letter... it sometimes helps us who've been on the 'inside' for quite a number of years to see the counterculture of low carb through fresh eyes.

You should know that we've heard from not hundreds, but thousands of people who "found" low carb because of Gary Taubes amazing articles (some from his original article in Science magazine last year, and far more from his NYT piece this Summer.) Gary is definitely one of my heros.

Let me show you a few indicators of this "counterculture" moving closer and closer to mainstream:
  • In more and more television shows and movies (often seen as the mirrors of how society is seeing things,) characters make quite casual references to avoiding carbs.

  • According to Food Industry magazines, there's been a 36.5% increase in restaurants adding either sugarfree or low carbohydrate dessert choices to their menus in the last 18 months.

  • More research institutes and universities than ever are doing research aimed at carbohydrate restriction. (More than 50% of these are outside the U.S. In American far too many such "projects" are funded by large carb and/or sugar pushing food manufacturers, or drug makers that make cholesterol lowering drugs, heartburn/reflux meds, and the like. M&M/Mars is a frequent funder of such "studies", and suprise! They all show no evils associated with sugar and high carbs.)

  • Two nights ago (from when I am typing this,) as a television show ended, a local reporter for CBS/New York did a little 'blurb': "Want to lose a few inches? Join us Monday morning as we cook up some great low carb recipes!" Nothing like the more common news-teasers of the past that tell of an upcoming story "looking at whether low carb is safe."

  • More and more common products are labeling items as "lower carbohydrate", etc. For instance, the marketing by Anheuser-Busch of their new "Low Carbohydrate" Beer (Michelob Ultra — which is excellent, by the way,) and several jellies, chewing gums, candies, etc that say "carbohydrate controlled." I expect this trend to continue.

Your experiences with the health food stores are somewhat surprising to me. When I was in LA last October (I know, it's been almost a year,) I scoped out a few HF stores, and many had low carb products I'd not been able to find back home here in Ohio, or in my other common states I visit often (Illinois, Tennessee, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Indiana, Michigan, West Virginia, Arkansas, and the Carolinas.) If this has changed, it's a shame. (I'll be back in LA for two weeks in February.)

I want you to know that the health food stores (and the higher end groceries with large departments for such things) ARE carrying larger and larger sections of low carb food products. One near me had 1/4 of an aisle a year and a half ago. Now it spans more than a full aisle, and there's another aisle of lowER carb and sugarfree items. They have more products every time I come in. And it's pretty much happening all over this area of the midwest.

Fewer and fewer restaurants bat an eye when you ask for sandwiches or burgers made without the bun. A string of McDonald's stores in one district placed huge banners over their doors that proclaimed, "Come On In Atkins Dieters — Let Us Hold Your Buns!" Of course in my travels, I still find plenty of McDonalds employees who freak out when you say no bun. Boy, have I got stories! [grin]

You should also know that plenty of people HAVE been writing about the possible connections between profits, ulterior motives and high carb foods. Some of those articles have been right here:
  • Enemy Unseen: Written by my son Stuart Ruffner, takes a look at the marketing practices of the carb-pushers.

  • Stuart followed it up with more delving into the truth in his answer to a visitor charge that high fat will kill us all.

  • Further letters he received requesting a closer look at the possible conspiracy that seems to exist between the sugar industry, the drug companies, etc, spawned this article.

  • In March of last year, I decided to point-by-point answer an article filled with tons of misinformation. Articles like this are published because they spout the dogma they are told to. Here was my answer. Here was my answer.

I hope this will show you that while progress is slow, the truth always comes out. It just takes longer when it's beating down mighty foes with very large swords.

Thanks for writing!

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